Tag Archives: curriculum

#CyberPd 2013–Who Owns the Learning?

Today begins the third annual #cyberpd event hosted by Cathy MereJill Fisch, and Laura Komos. This is an online book study that offers up deep reflection and wide-ranging discussion across grades, disciplines, and time zones.


This year we are discussing Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning?


It is important that I finally read Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning? because I have been playing at the edge of his thinking for the past year. I happened upon his TEDxNYED talk first, and was compelled by his stories of transformed classrooms; of what the buzz words “authentic” and “relevant” and “meaningful” learning could look like. He describes how students tackling real problems in their communities and working towards finding real solutions are not simply engaged in the tasks, but that they are ‘owning’ it.November establishes the analogy of the family farm, where everyone had a role and all contributions were meaningful and purposeful, to assist us in understanding how we need to shift our roles in our classrooms.  As it was essential for the success of the farm that everyone, including the young people, contribute, so too is this true in our classrooms.  November posits that  “the power of purpose and meaningful contribution has been missing from our classrooms and our youth culture for some time” (p. 5).

This rings so true for me.

Consider the rise of the maker movement.  It is a reflection of people’s desire to “get real”–to make, to create, to produce. From arts and crafts to robotics and coding, maker fairs are popping up in and out of schools to help us reconnect our lives in physical and productive ways. But November’s point is not just about productivity. It is importantly about the power of purposeful and meaningful contribution, not just “look what I made”, but “look how I have solved this problem.”


The Big Question:
Will the work survive beyond the student’s time in school?

When my youngest son was in grade eight (2007), he won the regional Heritage Fair with his project on the historical architecture of homes on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He built a replica of the buildings and mounted them on plywood. Later, the local museum requested to include the project in its display, and there the Heritage Fair Project remained until the museum renewed its exhibits.Was this a terrific experience for the youngster? Absolutely.

Did the project solve a problem? Contribute to the knowledge of the world?
No. Once its usefulness as a static exhibit had run its course, the work became trash.

The issue, then, is one of curriculum design. How do I understand the curriculum expectations through the Digital Learning Farm lens? How am I supporting students’ development in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a way that is purposeful and meaningful? This must be curriculum design that goes beyond having students write reviews for GoodReads or construct comments for online news articles, beyond running a Today’s Meet back channel in class, beyond writing reflective blogs, and beyond writing essays or collaborative poems in Google docs.

This is curriculum design that fuses the gradual release of responsibility, the student inquiry and deep questioning process, the sophisticated integration of information and communication technology, and November’s concept of the Digital Learning Farm.

This is curriculum design that breaks the traditional game of school.

Although #cyberpd has chunked chapters one and two together, I want to think through each of November’s four roles for students and what they might look like in my classroom, so I will post a second entry on “The Student as Tutorial Designer” separately.

I look forward to reading what everyone else thought about this week’s reading.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting this week’s #cyberpd blogs. Don’t forget to stop by Jill and Laura‘s blogs in the coming weeks to keep the discussion going!


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Assessing Wiki Work

Throughout the FCCT, I have focused on the needs of teachers and students who come to a global collaborative project with little to no experience with collaboration, Web 2.0 tools, and other multimedia technologies. The key is to find entry points that are within the comfort levels of newcomers and build from there. When I introduce a new tool like a wiki to a teacher, we begin thinking about what the students will do with it, and then from there, we create success criteria that we think the students will identify once they have explored some examples. The process of establishing success criteria is a familiar process to most of my teachers, so with our draft success criteria in hand, the teacher will be able to lead the students to brainstorm ideas and then group them into the four strands of the Ontario Achievement Chart. The Achievement Chart below comes from the English curriculum document, but the other disciplines are similar  and they can be viewed here.



The above categories match nicely with work of the wiki: Content, Research process/synthesizing/ reflection, Language/presentation/audience & purpose, and Incorporation of web 2.0 tools, hyperlinks, hypermedia, diigo etc. Ontario teachers, beyond evaluating students across the four categories, also evaluate student learning skills: Responsibility, Independent work, Organization, Collaboration, Self-regulation, and Initiative. To our success criteria, I would add a fifth category representing the criteria for collaboration. Although other learning skills are at work here, too; it’s collaboration that we need to teach to.

The important part of this process is the student brainstorming for all the criteria they believe they should meet to create a great wiki because it will tell the teacher where the students are at especially in the areas of  technology and Web 2.0 tools, and identify the areas that she will support with direct instruction. We cannot assume that because students use Facebook that they have any experience with tools like AnimotoVoki, or VoiceThread to name but a few.

The process of assessing student work is always recursive. We attempt to learn where they are, teach from that point, provide feedback along the way, revise the criteria as we go, and reflect on the final product to help us refine the process for the next project. Teachers attempting a global collaborative project for the first time need to start with what they know and build from there so that they have confidence that a positive outcome will be achieved.

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